Showing posts with label beer business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer business. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Question of Locality

Everyone and his mate, it seems, loves to bang on about "local beer", even though as I have written before the whole concept of "local" beer is fraught with problems:
"so often the ingredients being used by "local breweries" are anything but local. Malts come from Canada, the UK, Belgium and sometimes Germany, hops likewise come from a raft of countries, including the latest craze for Antipodean hops. Yeast is sourced from multinational companies with libraries of strains again spanning the globe. Want to brew a witbier? No problem, order a Belgian yeast specifically for use in witbiers, use the Weihenstephan strain for making a German hefeweizen, Nottingham for an English ale, or even Prague's Staropramen for making that Bohemian pilsner you've been dreaming about.

That pretty much leaves the water as the only genuinely local element of a beer, but how many breweries strip their water of all the minerals and salts which make regional water a driving force in the history of developing beer styles and then add back the required minerals for a particular style? Imagine London and Dublin had soft water instead of hard, porter and it's offspring, stout, would likely be very different beers."
That may sound like a strange comment to make given that I am someone that drinks far more beer from the area in which I live than stuff brought in from the wider world. It just so happens that I live in a part of Virginia with plenty of good breweries. If my choices were a third rate local craft brewery and buying Sam Adams in the store, I'd be on the Sam Adams all day long. Drinking local only really works when the drinking is a pleasurable experience rather than an industry induced guilt trip. In all the industry's posturing and waffle about supporting and drinking local (and no doubt some people will say that you should drink local shit so the brewery has funds to improve, as if shiny toys make better beer for a brewer with no sense of taste), it feels as though the locals themselves get forgotten about.

Can a brewery for example truly call itself "local" if it relies on daytrippers and tourists for a large bulk of its revenue, or if the price of a pint excludes its nearest neighbours from being able to drink there? There was a story I read recently about a brewery owner looking for a new location because the expected gentrification of the neighbourhood in which he pitched his tent didn't happen and his target audience didn't feel safe enough to visit his brewery. Now, call me a miserable git, but if you expect your audience to take their lives in their own hands and come to a rough neighbourhood for a bevvy while you wait for potential gentrification then you deserve to go under. If you want "nice" people to come and drop $6+ for a 16oz pint of whatever you are selling then work that into your business plan and go to areas they frequent.

How exactly the presence of a new brewery in a rough neighbourhood benefits that neighbourhood often escapes me. Job creation is often lauded as being a benefit, but then the people that fill the jobs being created are often likewise bussed in from outisde the neighbourhood. Indirect benefits to other local businesses gets touted too, but as daytripping tourists come in their cars, drink their flight, then leave in their cars, I wonder what other neighbourhood businesses benefit? Unless there is a petrol station to hand.

For millennia beer has been the everyman drink and the pub a social leveller, but there are times when it seems as though craft beer is for white, college educated, middle class folks, and the craft beer bar/brewpub/taproom little more than a ghetto in which white, college educated, middle class folks can feel safe from the marauding hoard that is the working class of their imagination. It's almost as though there is an unspoken code that only acceptable people are worthy of craft beer, as the industry and its attendant hangers on sneer at the great unwashed and decree "let them drink Bud".

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

More Than Less

I will just come out and say it, I like a drink.

That fact is probably the main reason I seek out session beers whenever possible. Unless I am in the company of good friends, I am the guy that will sit at a table and be very much on the periphery of the conversation. It's just as well I am something of an amateur anthropologist, I love watching people and how they interact, though it does mean I tend to drink quicker than a lot of people I know, and that's where session beers come in. I simply wouldn't want to drink 5 or 6 imperial pints of standard strength craft beer (between 6.5% and 7% in this part of Virginia) and then drive myself home, regional public transport being something akin to unicorn shit and the Brexit dividend.

For a while a couple of years ago it seemed as though everyone and his mate was jumping on the session beer bandwagon, though this being the US they wanted to say 5.5% abv beer was sessionable. Given that my definition of a session begins at the fourth imperial pint, these beers felt like some cruel joke. For those unaware of Lew Bryson's vital work at The Session Beer Project, let's remind ourselves of his suggested guidelines for an American session beer:
  • 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
  • conducive to conversation
  • reasonably priced
Forgive me for being cynical, but there are times when I wonder if anyone is paying much attention to anything but the first point in the definition, maybe the second, though again being grumpy I would say that most session IPAs are too flavourful.

The other three points though appear to be willfully ignored. A sweet and sour fruit infused faux gose is not balanced enough to have multiple pints, remember a session begins at the fourth imperial pint - 4 imperial pints of a watermelon gose? Not fucking likely, most samples of the gack are difficult enough to get through, let alone a US customary pint.

Even though I tend to be the quiet guy on the edges, it is session beer that eventually gets me in to a place where I am happier to jump into conversation. God that makes me sound like some right uptight git, I am just not much of a talker when there are more people in a group that I don't know than I do. After a few pints though, I'll loosen up and dip my toe into the waters of the conversation, and we'll see where it goes, the beer though conducts me into the conversation.

Much like the pricing restrictions of Reinheitsgebot, the idea of reasonably priced beer is conveniently forgotten by all and sundry. For example, during American Mild Month I routinely saw dark milds between 3% and 4% being sold for between $5 and $7 for an imperial pint, the same price as some 7%-9% abv beers on the same beer list. Now, pardon my french, but that is taking the fucking piss. Charging the same price for a 3.5% mild as an 8% double IPA simply smacks of gouging the customer and reaping a much bigger profit margin on the beer.

There is more to creating a session beer than simply being technical with the ABV. To truly have session beer there needs to be an environment where the best bitters, dark milds, and pale lagers are as an attractive proposition as some extreme hop bomb or malt based fruity alcopop. Session beer thrives when the beer culture is one of drinking pints with your mates rather than cruising breweries doing flights. I fear we are starting to lose that culture.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2 Years Later....

I realised the other day that it has been two years since the announcement was made that Devils Backbone Brewing had been purchased by the craft division of Anheuser-Busch, The High End. What followed on social media was the fairly predictable caterwauling and butt hurt statements about selling out and people never spending another penny on Devils Backbone beer, and even disgraceful abuse of Devils Backbone employees.


With it being two years out from the sale, I thought it would be good to reflect on how Devils Backbone is today. For the sake of full disclosure let me say that I am friends with several people that work at Devils Backbone, including Jason Oliver, and I have worked with them on a number of brewing projects to bring Czech style lagers to the drinkers of central Virginia.


I will admit that I don't get down to the brewpub location nearly as often as I would like, it is about an hour's drive from my house and since the birth of Mrs V and I's twin sons going anywhere much further than Charlottesville is an exercise in logistics. However, the times that we have gone down recently have been as they always were, superb. The beer has been excellent, the service on the ball, friendly, efficient, and it is great to see so many of the same faces as before the sale. I don't know how much airtime this got, but Devils Backbone have always believed in creating full time jobs, with benefits, and one plus of the sale was that DB immediately doubled the match for employee 401(k) pension plans from 3% of earnings to 6%.


This is though a beer blog and in my experience in the past 2 years I have not had a single bad beer. Have I had beers that were not my thing? Sure. Did that beer display poor brewing or quality traits? Nope, not once. Devils Backbone have, by virtue of the purchase, been able to invest in their equipment at the brewpub, and at the production facility, so that they can further explore the craft of making great beer, including getting in horizontal lagering tanks. That investment is paying off in the quality of the beer being made.

Every summer I produce a thoroughly subjective list of the best Virginia made beers that I have drunk in the previous year, and Devils Backbone are regulars because Jason and co know how to make great beer. As I said in my initial reaction to the sale "as long as the beer remains good, then I will remain a happy Devils Backbone drinker", 2 years later and I am still a happy Devils Backbone drinker.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Hardknott Decision

There was sad news this morning when I opened Facebook. Dave Bailey, once of the Woolpack Inn and more recently of Hardknott Brewing has decided to call it a day with the brewery.

In Dave's post he cites the saturation of the craft beer market in the UK as one reason for deciding to close down. By the sound of it, the market is exceptionally tight for small brewers without their own tied estate to guarantee a route to market. That coupled with the parsimony of some real ale drinkers can only make life very challenging.

I am not sure if Dave's beers made it to this side of the Pond but I am confident they would have been well received here. When I was home in 2014, I made a point to try as many as I could lay hands on, and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

I want to wish Dave all the best in whatever comes next and sincerely hope he remains involved in beer as it would be a shame to lose his knowledge, passion, and drive from the industry.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beer Snobs Are the Worst

Words fascinate me, the stories they tell, the culture they reveal, the way they change through time, how they can be used to comfort, heal, wound, and destroy. Whoever came up with the old rhyme that 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' was an idiot. Words are, whether spoken or written, the most powerful thing the human race have ever created.

Etymology, the study of the origins of words, is one of those areas that I find particularly fascinating, and a word whose etymology is deeply interesting is 'snob'. According to a folk etymology the word came about in the great public schools of England, places such as Eton and Harrow, where the boys of non-noble families were listed as being 'sans noblesse', abbreviated as 's.nob'. Sans noblesse itself derives from the Latin 'sine nobilitate', in both cases means someone who is without nobility. Whether or not the folk etymology is correct is another thing, and according to the Oxford Dictionaries it isn't, the true origins being a term for a shoemaker's apprentice, however the point remains, a snob is one lacking in the traits usually associated with nobility, as opposed to traits associated with the nobility.

Unfortunately this lack of nobility is all too evident among the self styled beer snobs of the universe. When I worked in the Starr Hill tasting room you could usually rely, at least once a shift, on some gobshite spouting off about stuff he clearly knew little about, especially when it came to brewery relationships with bigger brewing companies. At the time Starr Hill had a distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch, which many an ignoramus took to meaning AB owned Starr Hill, and thus how could any of us truly love beer and work for an AB shill - usually they never saw the irony of their drinking in the brewery, but blinkers are a powerful device.

I have mentioned in previous posts my disdain for the ridiculous, and often vitriolic, comments made on various social media outlets about the purchase of Devils Backbone by AB-InBev, but a post by DB brewmaster Jason on Facebook caught my eye this week, I repeat here verbatim and with Jason's permission:
"I apologize for this beer realm rant, overt eyes - I don't care what your opinions are about ABI buying Devils Backbone Brewing Company but please don't come into any of our locations and impose your world view upon my co-workers. Please do not be rude to them and please do not act like you are all knowing about their situation. This is their work space and where they make a living. This is not a hobby or a diversion for them, unlike your visit. This is what we do! 99% of my co-workers had no idea about ABI purchasing DB. As soon as I was looped in, I ADVOCATED for it! ME, I did. I will debate anyone about this. Please direct your arguments to me. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but please do not be rude and callous to my co-workers. The ones with the strongest feelings are often the most ignorant. I don't expect to change anyone's minds but I can & will certainly make them look likes asses. It is so easy to do. Believe me. Case in point, on an un-related FB post about Goose Islands Bourbon County Stout someone suggested (with all the certainty in the world) to expect a cheapening of ingredients. Which in particular? Which malts & hops, what process?? The answer is that person was talking out of his ass like it was gospel but none of it is true. Yet confident to post such un-truths he was.Thousands of people toss that crap out there. Question the blanket statements. It's sad, dangerous, and distasteful, that people talk about peoples professions and livelihoods with such authority while knowing very little about it. If you are a beer aficionado, enjoy your hobby but please think twice about trying to bring other peoples businesses down with vitriol. This is our livelihood and you know less than you think. Trust me. I've been brewing for a LIVING for 20 years and I know so much more about beer, brewing, and the industry than most of you self satisfied, beer snobs. That is a FACT! Sorry to end on a negative note but god damn, what does it take to house train people these days? Why don't we speak about the things we know, celebrate the things we love, and think twice about chiming in on all the other shit?? Beer snobs are the worst thing about craft beer. Hands down."

I heartily agree with everything Jason says here. Beer geeks, lovers, appreciators, yes be that absolutely, Don't be a beer snob, and most definitely don't be a jerk to people at their livelihood.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

男女真人后进式猛烈动态图_男人让女人爽的免费视频_男人脱女人衣服吃奶视频